: Widows & Widowers

Be Adventurous in Your new Life

Hi everyone:

Wow- if you had told me I would go kayaking in a river near my childhood home at the age of… well, never mind,… I would have said you were crazy. Really? Me? Kayaking?

Folks, my idea of roughing it is the Hilton Garden Inn. My idea of fun is shopping at nice malls and picking up bargains.  I do not do things that cause me to become windblown or sopping wet, in public. I do not pull off to the side of the road, walk through weeds, and enter the river. I just don’t. Until I do.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to paddle around the river with my sons and their families. I had never done that before. I hadn’t even thought about doing it.

You know what? It was a blast! We had a great time. Sure, I got a bit sunburned and my hair was mussed (heaven forbid) but we paddled for a couple of hours and had a lot of laughs.  My older son showed me how kayaking is done.

So, the purpose of this Suddenly Single blog is to ask you to step out of your comfort zone. Do something adventurous that you haven’t done before. You know, there’s an old saying that the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

Fill in the blank: I have never done _______________ but am going to give it a try. And then go for it! I’m already thinking about buying a kayak. It’s great exercise and a tremendous amount of fun. This is a new time of life for you and you need to be open to adventure!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Don’t Worry If You’re Talking to Yourself, Only Worry If You’re Answering Back: Oh, No!

Hello everyone:

There used to be a saying “don’t worry if you’re talking to yourself, only worry if you’re answering back.” Thanks to the COVID 19 virus, I passed that a long time ago!

One month is bad enough, but two months of self-isolation are even worse. At some point in time, I caught myself having conversations with myself. Full conversations. What’s a single gal to do? Here are some suggestions to help lift the fog and dissipate those clouds of conversational uncertainty.

First, talk to Siri on your phone. I changed my Siri voice to that of a British male, finding that more delightful than a woman’s tones. Ask questions, and listen, truly listen to the answer. Okay, I know that’s a bit lame. But if you’re desperate…. These are troubling times, you know.

Call an old friend and talk for hours. I mean, what is she doing? She’s almost as stuck as you are, except that you’re the one who’s single.

Go for walk. Greet everyone pleasantly. Admire dogs, children, and cats. (Yes, I actually saw a woman walking her cat the other day. Poor gal must have been despairing of human contact. It certainly was a conversation starter. Sadly, the cat wanted nothing to do with the idea and took off, her owner in tow, but I digress.)

Go to The Home Depot and talk to the workers there. (Please keep your conversation department related, or it will be brief. That is, if you are in the paint department, don’t try to talk carpeting, or you will get handed off very quickly.) (Second note: They are restricted to a certain number of customers in the store at a time, so please be sensitive to the people waiting in line outside, trying to get in, especially if it is 35 degrees out, like it was here this morning.)

Go to the grocery store and bemoan to anyone else in the paper goods aisle the fact that there still isn’t any toilet tissue available. After all this time, what in the world could everyone be doing with it? (Side note: I have seen two different Cottonnelle TP ads recently, teasing me about their product to the point where they showed a Walmart worker loading the shelves with their product and smiling to beat the band.

I awoke early this morning and rushed to Walmart, only to find not even the worst Brand X product on their shelves. But I digress, again.) You can actually get into some very interesting conversations with folks regarding the benefits of one bathroom wipe over another. Been there, done that, but that smacks of desperation once again.

Put on a YouTube video of your favorite music and sing along, pretending you are in the band. Dance, and you will get a real workout. If a neighbor sees you, you might get hauled away by the men in the little white suits…. They will graciously bring you a white jacket to wear, as well. It will be a bit…confining…..Oops, gotta run. There’s someone at the door. Or there will be soon, if I trip that walker on her way past my house….though it would be nice to talk to someone I’ve known longer than five minutes.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Having a Male Friend If You’re Female Can be a Good Thing

Hello everyone:

I met the most delightful widow today. We were both on a walk, headed in opposite directions, when I admired her sporty little hat. She smiled and, in the next few minutes, she told me that she is in her late seventies and has been widowed for four years.

Her late hubby died of pancreatic cancer. She was alone and really feeling it, except for a daughter who lived nearby. One day, she went in to get her car serviced when the mechanic told her he knew a man who she should meet.

She smiled but left the shop without much more thought about the matter. A few days later, the mechanic called about her car, telling her about some upgrades to her service that she might want to consider. Then he asked, “Can I please tell you about my friend? He’s a little older than you are but he’s my best friend and I really would like for you to met him.”

She finally consented to have lunch with the friend. After all, what could it hurt? She was walking towards the restaurant where they had agreed to meet, later on that week, when she spotted a very nice looking older gentlemen walking towards her. She said, “Charlie?” He replied, “Sally?”

She said, “The rest is history. We have met one another for lunch twice a week ever since. Sometimes we have one another over for dinner. We take walks, do puzzles, and just enjoy being together.” She smiled and said, “He’s really old- he’s 85, but he’s mentally still sharp and we have the best time together. Life isn’t so lonely anymore.”

The message here is that sometimes a friend of the opposite sex can be just that- a friend. And that can make all the difference in the world!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Staying Sane in a COVID19 World

Hello everyone:

The practicality of keeping your mind intact during the COVID19 pandemic might be a no-brainer (well, actually it would be the opposite, technically speaking) but how does someone who lives alone keep his or her mind? Good question.

You see television commercials that assume you have a boatload of folks living with you, when your reality is that there is no one. The PSA Powers that Be hint very loudly and often that the ONLY safe place is in your home. Going outside, even to the grocery, could be fatal.

Well, there is that possibility. If you are over 65 and chronically ill, then, yes, there is a much better chance that you will get sick. If you are in good shape, you could also get sick. The deal here is that there is a 98% chance you would recover, even if you did get ill. Those aren’t my stats; they came from Dr. Ben Carson, a man I greatly admire, two weeks ago.

So how do you keep from going wahoo while waiting for the all-clear? (The point here is that you want to be around other people, without actually being anywhere near them. Your house can only be SO clean….

Text. Call people on the phone. Keep some kind of noise going on during your waking hours, trying to avoid anything that will stress you out. HGTV is a good start, except for those annoying Lowe’s commercials where they tell you every five minutes to stay home with your family. Suddenly Single folks live alone, Lowe’s geniuses. Don’t rub it in.

Crud. I can hear that annoying commercial where they tell me what my rooms have been changed into…This is the fifteenth time they’ve played it since I started writing this blog posting. Aughh!!!!! I have just made the decision to stick with Home Depot, who only asks that I paint my entire house or Ace, where they offer curbside or home delivery. No more Lowe’s for me, who apparently have a very low budget for musical interludes and play that same blasted melody with its handful of notes over and over and over…..No, wait, I may be going nuts. But I digress.

Order books and read them. Pretend you are in the story; they have people in them. They are your new best friends. (Keep in mind they have to be a bit on the nutty side or there would be no story). Write a book. Who are the weirdest people you know? Change all identifying names and places and have at it.

Take long walks, and greet everyone who passes by, even if they are on the opposite side of the road where they should be. We have a pandemic going on, after all. Make appointments to talk to your neighbors; one of you can stand in the road while the other of you stands in your garage.

Stay sane. Put on your big girl pants and don’t let the pandemic get you down. We are one day closer to our freedom than we were yesterday.

Hugs,

Dr. Sheri

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More News on COVID-19’s Effect on Marriages

Hello everyone:

You’ve seen the pictures of folks smiling happily into the camera for pictures to be posted at once on Facebook. It makes me very pleased to see how some marriages have been strengthened by the virus and the forced togetherness. If this is a time of great joy for some couples, that’s superb.

But I had a chat recently with a pastor friend of mine and he was telling me that, in the midst of all this togetherness, there is a darker side. He informed me that incidents of martial violence have skyrocketed. I mentioned in an earlier blog posting that divorce lawyers have found their business increased by 50% but that doesn’t account for the marriages that are coming apart at the seams due to violence.

Some other friends told me that they have watched their parents’ marriages fall apart in front of their eyes, again as a result of too much time together and stress over losing jobs and financial pressure. Young people have lost their jobs by the thousands, but some older people have also become unemployed and businesses are failing.

So what can you and I do? Actually, there are several things that would be helpful. First, pray for these families. It is, indeed, families that are being affected by this fallout, not just the couples themselves. They need to know that they aren’t forgotten, so send a note of encouragement and support. Don’t take sides. That won’t help.

A note doesn’t interfere with crazy schedules that may include home schooling, cleaning, cooking three meals a day, juggling what is left of work, and then trying to deal with the disintegration of what might have been a long-term marriage.

What do you write? Hello. I’m thinking of you. This, too, shall pass. Praying for better days. I’m here for you. You aren’t alone in this. I’m your friend….

You know your friend or family member better than I do. The important thing is that you have written a personal, handwritten note to uplift and encourage, not a text. That can make a huge difference.

Next, wait a few days and follow up with a phone call. Again, be there for the person. Listen. Devote your entire attention to the person. Pray for him or her. Make sure that you are contacting a person of the same sex. This is not the time to get involved with someone other than your own spouse (who my Suddenly Single folks no longer have)! You are not a home wrecker; you are there to be an encouragement to your friend.

Pray without ceasing. Encourage without judging. Be there without fail.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Tax Time for the Newly-Single Can Be a Shocker or How to Pay for a House without Getting One

Hello everyone:

Let me tell you a little secret: If you forget to change your filing status with your employer after you become single, your taxes can be a real shocker when tax time comes. Voice of experience here. Today.

So, my ex and I split up last year. He always did our taxes. I would nod and smile as we went through the documents, not really paying attention. After a few minutes of explanation, I would sign on the numerous proverbial dotted lines and everything was fine. The refunds would arrive like clockwork.

My accountant got my full attention this morning when he told me what my tax liability was for not telling my employer I was no longer married. The fact that I hadn’t known I needed to tell my employer will bring further blessings next year, since we are so far into this year. I have spent a lot of time today, scrambling to inform my HR department. They apparently aren’t working right now, due to the COVID19 fun, which will make my joy even greater next year since I can’t get a hold of them.

My attention was so grabbed this morning that I went weak in my knees. The number that my accountant gave me was more than half what I paid for my first house. I kid you not. A lot more than half, truth be told. And I wasn’t getting a house out of the deal. And the money was due by when??????

So, here’s the takeaway for all of my suddenly single friends: Inform your employer IMMEDIATELY when you are no longer married. If you know that you will be unexpectedly unmarried soon, go ahead and change your status now, so that the taxes will not come as a surprise next April. And so you won’t get lulled into thinking you are taking home more money that you are.

So where’s my house?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Marital Fallout From COVID-19

Hello everyone:

I heard an interesting news flash this past week. As you all know, the virus has been taking quite a toll on the world. The stress of not knowing if your best buddy or nearest neighbor is harboring the virus is getting hard on relationships.

But one of the greatest pitfalls of this whole Coronavirus outbreak is the strain on less-than-perfect marriages. It seems that, according to a news story I heard, divorce lawyers are finding their business is swelling by 50%. All that togetherness has brought out some hidden dissatisfaction for some couples.

Apparently, some marriages are “for better, for worse” but not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And all the hours in between.

I saw a couple of nearby-but-different-street neighbors on a walk this afternoon. They were sitting on their porch, as far apart as they could get. They were silent and only moved enough to scowl at each other and greet me when I said “hello.” I wondered how long they had been married and if they would be one of the couples that would be needing my website soon.

The U.S. Census Bureau statistics that I regularly cite say that 1.6 million people are projected to lose their spouse to death or divorce this year, but that was before the virus showed up. I wonder just how far those statistics will soar but the time everything is said and done. Let’s do some figuring here. Of the 1.6 million people factored in here, 813,000 will get divorced. If the lawyers are saying their numbers are up by 50%, then that is roughly 400,000 more people. Wow, that’s 1.2 million people who will be spouse-less by New Year’s Eve.

If you know anyone in this sad state, encourage them to get counselling. That’s a lot of happy divorce attorneys but a huge hunk of people saying “I Don’t.” And that would be a sad refrain to an even sadder illness.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Logistics of Living Alone

Hello everyone:

My great aunt was my maiden great aunt, meaning that she never married. At some point in her later years, she realized the importance of having friends who knew she was sill among the living, on a daily basis.

So she started a twice-daily phone chain where she and her single, widowed, and divorced friends would call each other the first thing in the morning and again at night. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Or as neurotic.

A good friend of mine had a single gal who she had known for many years. One day, some mutual friends realized that they hadn’t heard from the single woman for several days. They went over to her house, where they found her car in the driveway, the newspapers piling up, and no answer when they knocked on the door.

The police responded to their call and they found their friend lying on the floor of the shower. She had fallen several days before and couldn’t get up (this was before the days of those chains older folks wear around their necks). The lady was dehydrated and not in her right mind.

They transported her to the hospital, where they were able to restore her health but she was never quite the same again.

Instead of taking a chance that this might happen to you, it’s important that you establish a regular group of contacts you make. Have an arrangement where you call at about the same time every day. Make sure that a couple of trusted friends have a key to your house, with permission to come in and check on you if they don’t hear from you.

What stories can you share about folks who live alone? It’s better to have a plan in place than to end up ….badly off, if you get my drift.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Don’t Do Me A Favor if You’re Leaving Raw Spackling Compound on My Walls

Hello everyone:

You may know the Helpful Harry type- with apologies to everyone named Harry. He tries to do a good deed but it misfires and you end up with the problem. Let me tell you a story.

I recently bought a lovely home. I went through the pre-inspection one hour before settlement and discovered something shocking: The previous owner, in some sort of misguided attempt to be helpful, had covered every nail hole on every wall in the new house with spackling compound.

Now this might have been deemed “helpful,” except that every wall in the house was painted brown. (Imagine here for a moment that you are living inside a wet cardboard box. That’s the color he had painted all of the walls during his pre-spackling extravaganza.)

Now, I knew I would need to repaint, not being fond of wet-cardboard-box brown, but I didn’t realize that it would need to be done immediately (the man apparently had a bunch of pictures that had previously graced his walls, so there were huge patches of spackle on every single wall. Some walls had as many as six or seven splotches!) “Heavens to Betsy,” as my mother would say. Shoot, this was even worth her “goodness, gracious, mercy Maude” and my father’s beloved expression, “Gosh!”

While I was busy “Betsying,” “Mauding,” and “goshing” my way through the house, I also realized that, because the walls were textured and because he had sanded them, I now had white smooth sections of brown, textured walls.

The end of the story, however, is really quite wonderful. A very dear and new friend and her family came over to my house and painted my entire house. The horrid brown with white spackle has now been replaced with gorgeous light blue, light mint green, and pink (not in the same room or even on the same floor). It looks great, not thanks to Helpful Harry.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Recalcitrant Washing Machines and Other Irritations

Hello everyone:

I have a two-month old washer that has been incredibly persnickety. Sometimes it will spin the clothes and sometimes it simply rinses them five or six times and then declares itself finished. (It has also claimed to be spinning when I can clearly hear it filling and refilling with water.)

It seems there is a computer in the workings of the machine (computers are everywhere these days…I remember my grandmother’s old washer that required you to put clothing literally through the wringer….but I digress). Said computer has many likes and dislikes and apparently one of those peculiarities is that it is not overly fond of a hose that is too long.

You know that hose that goes from your washer to the drain line in your wall? Well, apparently, the washer doesn’t like a six foot hose; it prefers a six-inch one. When my washer was originally delivered, it came with a three-inch hose that you couldn’t do anything with, especially not drain any pressurized water, without risking the possibility that your laundry room would soon be swathed in dirty rinse water.

So, on the advice of the washer deliverers, I made a trek to my local Home Depot and bought a longer one. A much longer one. Six feet longer, to be more precise. Nobody told me that it would need to be trimmed and my friend who kindly installed the new, longer hose didn’t know to trim it, either.

So, the technician met me at my house today, and it took him all of ten minutes to realize the challenge that was confronting my washer. You see, when the hose is too long, it is longer than the washer, the water backs up as it is draining, and the computer inside the machine says there isn’t any water in the washer and it keeps refilling the machine. Hence, the five or six rinse cycles, sans the spin cycle.

So, before you get ready to deep six your washer or hang around the house waiting for the washer technician, take a look at that hose. The length might be the problem. Make sure you keep enough length so that it doesn’t come out of the wall when it’s under pressure (which would lead to an impromptu bubble bath or a spur of the moment baptismal service) but not so long that it doesn’t confuse your washer. Where’s a wringer washer when you need it?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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